D-Pad Studio is not known for rushing its work. Its second game, 2016’s Owlboy, took the team ten years to make. It was restarted multiple times due to studio concerns about fan expectations in the wake of a new renaissance for Metroidvanias, various life events, and director Simon Stafsnes Andersen’s acknowledged struggles with depression. And now, D-Pad is on the cusp of releasing a game that’s taken them even longer to complete: Vikings on Trampolines, which has been in the works for 20 years.
Speaking to IGN at Gamescom, creator Jo-Remi Madsen says that their bouncing battler was conceived when he was about 14 years old, playing games like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. with his sister. “She would always give up,” Madsen says, because even though she understood how to play, she couldn’t figure out the controller and found his explanations of how it worked boring. So he began working on a game that only used the joystick to play: a core concept that Vikings on Trampolines still rests upon in 2022.
So how did the vikings end up on trampolines? When Madsen programmed the earliest version of the game, he didn’t know how to make characters walk yet. But he could make them jump. “I’m not an animator,” he says, “so if I just make them bounce, I don’t have to animate anything.”
Madsen’s prototype served its purpose, and for about ten years, Vikings on Trampolines was largely forgotten. But when he partnered with Andersen at D-Pad Studio, Madsen shook off the cobwebs and showed it off to his new business partner. Andersen loved it. The team made a new prototype of the concept that turned it into a Smash-like brawler, and that prototype won the first-ever Nordic Games Indie Sensation Award at the Nordic Game Awards in 2011. A promising start for a new indie game studio.
And…then it went back into the vault again. D-Pad Studios was initially focused on Owlboy, which ended up taking much longer than any of them thought it would. So for almost another decade, Vikings on Trampolines lay forgotten again until Owlboy was complete, at which point D-Pad was able to shake off the dust and take one more crack at it.
But Vikings on Trampolines’ hurdles were not yet all cleared. The version that we’re seeing now in 2022 was first intended as a competitive couch game, where the titular vikings bounce around stages on trampolines and try to knock each other off the trampolines onto the ground. But not long after D-Pad started work on Vikings, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, dampening hopes that such a game would be successful.
Vikings on Trampolines Animated GIFs
So D-Pad pivoted again. The competitive mode stayed at the core of Vikings on Trampolines, but the team iterated on the idea to flesh out a full adventure mode, complete with a story, villains, minigames, and boss battles. And this, then, is the Vikings on Trampolines that we saw this week at Gamescom: a 20-year saga at last nearing its conclusion, though it’s still waiting on a formal release date.
And yes, you can still play it with one hand. Andersen quips that the one-handed setup is perfect for parties “so you can drink beer” with your other hand while you play, and Madsen confirms the team has had people who were “very inebriated” beat them at the game before. But more importantly, they continue, what initially began as a gameplay novelty turned into a way to make Vikings on Trampolines available to many people who may otherwise struggle to play a couch competitive game like this. Because it only requires use of one joystick, it’s easier to play for those who struggle to hit lots of buttons, or people who may be unfamiliar with games and don’t want to deal with complex controls – perfect, in fact, to play with a less-experienced sibling like Madsen did all those years ago.
We got a hands-on preview of Vikings on Trampolines at Gamescom 2022, calling it “a blast in the right environment” that “shines brightest in multiplayer,” though the adventure mode has plenty of promise too. You can catch more Vikings on Trampolines and everything else we’re checking out at Gamescom in our roundup and ongoing live show.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.